When most job seekers hear the word “networking” they automatically think “What can I get my network contact to do for me?” From my experience, that is not only the wrong way to approach networking, it is backwards.
Let me give you a very recent example of the right way to use your network. Four weeks ago I was teaching a Job & Career Transition Coach certification workshop to two dozen workforce development specialists. During that course, I described what I thought to be the best way to to “use” your network. During a lunch break I was talking with a student whose husband was retired from the military. I mentioned that I was also retired from the military and consequently received my prescription drugs from a military hospital that was over 100 miles from my home. The student indicated that it might be more easier for me to fill my prescriptions by mail. I replied that I had never ordered my drugs by that method, but it sounded like a good idea. End of conversation.
Last week I received a letter from the student that contained the usual thank you for presenting the workshop. But, it also included a three page flyer on the prescriptions-by-mail program as well as an order form. In her letter, she did not ask me for anything. Rather, she remembered something from our brief conversation and sent me information related to my need. I will remember her because she did something for me without asking for something in return. If I run into anything that would be of benefit to a member of that class, whose name do you think would come to my mind first?